Category Archives: Little Lit Landscape

Little Lit Book Review: Chinese Picture Books [Part 3]

The Mother Tongue Language Festival, organised by the National Library, is held between 6 and 13 September 2014. So it is an opportune time to review some good-quality Chinese picture books, originally written in English, Japanese or French.


 Big Word Factory by by Agnès de LestradeTitle: The Big Word Factory by Agnès de Lestrade

Age Range: 5 years and above

Chinese standard: Intermediate

Availability: This book is available as an app, and has been considered one of the ‘Best Book Apps of 2013’. The English edition has a different title, ‘Phileas’s Fortune: A Story About Self-Expression.




The Big Word Factory by Agnès de Lestrade is an award-winning picture book. Originally written in French and translated into Chinese, it is a charming tale about the beauty and power of words, and the power of the heart to touch the hearts of others.



Big Word Factory by Big Word Factory by by Agnès de Lestrade

The reader is taken to a peculiar place where a factory produces words like consumer goods. Angry and elegant words are marked down as sale items. Worthless words are discarded in alleys.

In this peculiar place the people hardly speak. Speaking is too expensive and too laborious.

First they have to purchase the words. Next they have to chew and swallow each word. Finally they have to wait for an appropriate time to articulate the words.

Big Word Factory by Agnès de LestradeBut what if they can’t afford to buy words? They might be able to nab words printed on strips of paper floating by; words tossed away by those who used them carelessly and frivolously.

Phileas wants to tell Cybele, “I love you” but he cannot afford it. Instead we watch the resourceful and courageous Phileas woos Cybele with 3 other words: – Cherry, Dust, Chair.


My Thoughts – Heart of the Matter

Big Word Factory by Big Word Factory by by Agnès de LestradeThe Big Word Factory is a good picture book with intricate layers and textures that are waiting to be unpeeled and uncovered. Poetically written and translated, this book is a great resource for children to build their word bank [English and Chinese]. If you are a word-lover and enjoy savouring the texture and flavour of every word, this book is for you. This story is also a love story for romantics.


We often hear it’s not what we say but how we say it that matters. This story points to a fundamental truth: the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Phileas’ 3 words do not seem to stand a chance with rival Oscar‘s string of words. However, Phileas, heartfelt expression of each word, his gifting of these precious pearls he has struggled to gather finally tugs Cybele’s heart.




Tagged , , ,


This is part of the “Little Lit Author’s First…” series. Today we are continuing with Part 3 of  the interview with one of  Singapore’s first authors of children’s literature – David Seow. 



Linn Shekinah: What do you think of the future of our children’s literature [publishing, writing, distribution, selling] scene? How would you like to evolve as a writer? 

David Seow: I think the children’s publishing scene here has come a long way but it’s still got a long way to go, but it’s getting there.

I work with an amazing editor, Sheri Tan, and my publisher, Epigram Books, publishes some of the most stunning books around. They’ve even managed to get my books for sale online at Waterstones, Foyles and Amazon.

And my distributor, Closetful of Books is doing a great job of arranging school visits for me and getting some of my titles into bookstores.

As mentioned, I think the team at the National Book Council is doing a tremendous job and it’s not an easy job either. But they manage to outdo themselves year after year and I think their accomplishments are largely overlooked by most, sadly.

Every year they bring in literary heavyweights such as Sally Gardner, Wendy Orr, Leonard Marcus and Chris Cheng, and while they’re here they’re introduced to local children’s literature, which they would not be otherwise. They also promote our books when they go abroad to book fairs in countries like India, China, London and Bologna, Italy. So they are doing everything in their power to get our books out there.

As a writer, you always want to grow. Just as I want to become a better person, I also want to become a better writer with each passing day, month, and year. Writing like life is always changing, always evolving and always unpredictable.


Linn Shekinah: How do you wish to be remembered as a writer? 

David Seow: I would say I’d like to be remembered and as the enfant terrible of children’s picture books.

 1 | 2 | 3


Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Singaporean Children’s Literature Scene: Growing by Leaps and Bounds [Part 2]

This is part 2 of a detailed write up of the Little Lit landscape in Singapore which I briefly shared at Asian Festival Children’s Content 2014. You can read Part 1 here.


(B) Benefits of a Growing Children’s Literature Scene

(i) Growing Local Readership and Fan base

Linn Shekinah at Asian Festival Children's Content [AFCC] 2014

Linn Shekinah at Asian Festival Children’s Content [AFCC] 2014

We have come a long way. Today, many local books have found their ways into the hands of many young local readers. Not only can local readers relate to the characters and stories set in familiar local contexts, they also support their favourite local authors by voting for them in contests such as Popular’s Readers’ Choice Awards and the Red Dot Book Awards. This marks a stamp of approval and recognition for our authors.

(ii) Growing Influence Locally and Regionally

The books of our “pioneers” such as David Seow and Shamini Flint, multiple-international award-winner Emily Lim and best-selling author Adeline Foo have caught the attention of literary agents and foreign publishers in Australia, China, Korea, India, Indonesia and Malaysia and so on. More authors have been invited to speak at overseas literary festivals and some have won regional writing competition.

(iii) Growing Value & Appreciation of Children’s Books

Increasingly, organisations see the power of the written word and the value of picture books. Some organisations have adopted a more attractive approach to reach out to the young by commissioning local authors to spin a tale, interwoven with some of their corporate messages.

Just last year, National Parks Board celebrated their 50th anniversary with the launch of a middle grade book Secrets of the Swamp by Neil Humphrey. Ministry of Social and Family Development commissioned Emily Lim to write four picture books [The Best Recipe for Tofu; I Want to be a Cheese Taster etc] about the rights of the child. The Housing Development Board commissioned Ho Lee Ling to write a story, “Maddie Makes Friends” for all preschoolers and primary school students.

The print edition of the commissioned books is usually distributed to schools, making their content readily available to students. Sometime a digital version of these books is downloadable. This move cultivates the public’s appreciation in children’s books.

Indeed, the Singaporean children’s literature scene has grown by leaps and bounds. With such growth in 2013, who knows what good news the future will bring?

 Part 1>>

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Singaporean Children’s Literature Scene: Growing By Leaps and Bounds [Part 1]

At this year’s Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC), during the Celebrating Our Stars event graced by Member of State, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Ministry of Education, Ms Sim Ann, I had the privilege of speaking about the significant growth of the Singaporean children’s literature scene. In my presentation, I gave a snapshot of our progress and highlighted the multilingual children’s books published in 2013.

Here is a detailed write up about my observations of the Little Lit landscape in Singapore.

 Singaporean Children’s Literature Scene: Growing by Leaps and Bounds [Part 1]

[from Left to Right] Minister of Education, Miss Sim Ann, Linn Shekinah and Mr Rama of National Book Development Council

[from Left to Right] Minister of Education, Ms Sim Ann, Linn Shekinah and Mr Rama of National Book Development Council

 2013 was a phenomenal year for the Singaporean children’s literature scene, with a bumper crop of 80 multilingual children’s books being published. Two of my titles – my first bilingual picture book, the Asian Spice Kids: Star Anise, Superstar, and Dou Dou: the Little Imperial Chef have made it into the Singapore little lit cannon too. The quantity and quality of publications is significant, considering that we are a small nation, and that our scene is still pretty nascent.

 2013 – New Titles and New Writers

The year has seen many first-time authors bursting onto the scene. Their books have added breadth and depth into the picture book and chapter book categories, while filling the void in the middle grade and young adult (YA) book categories. Many of them are prolific writers including new YA author Maranna Chan, who has published five teen mysteries in one year!

A few first-time authors are students, including YA fiction writer, Gaby Tye of Run, and picture book author-cum-illustrator Gelyn Ong of The Forest Fable. 2013 has also been a year of collaborations. We see titles produced by husband-wife team, [http://] A J Low of Sherlock Sam,and mother-daughter team, Lesley-Anne Tan and Monica Lim of Danger Dan.

(A) Contributing Factors: Putting Singapore on the Children’s Literature Map

The exponential growth of authors and publications has not happened overnight. Several factors have collectively helped put Singapore on the children’s literature map.

(i) Singaporean Children’s Literature Champion: National Book Development Council

Our key advocate, the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS), actively champions Singaporean children’s literature and nurtures our authors through its annual conference, the AFCC, year-round workshops and programmes.

(ii) Government Initiatives, Funding & Grant Schemes

The initiatives and funding schemes introduced by the Media Development Authority (MDA), the National Arts Council (NAC), and other commissioning bodies, have also supported publishers and authors in the creation, production and promotion of our books locally and globally. These stakeholders have also organised writing competitions to encourage aspiring authors to pen original children’s manuscripts.

(iii) Greatest Milestone

The most impactful and effective writing competition was the First-Time Writers/Illustrators Award, jointly organised by NBDCS and MDA. This initiative, launched in 2006, ran for four years, with the final competition running in 2009. Eight years on, this initiative has yielded fruit. Almost a third of the First-Time Writers Award recipients are still contributing to the Singapore little lit canon. And most significantly, it has produced prominent authors who have helped pave the way for emerging new authors.

Part 2>>

Tagged , , , , , , , ,